Middle Grade Mondays: All Creatures Great and Small

I’m always trying to find books for solid middle grade readers who aren’t mature enough or interested in YA matters yet. Who don’t care about love triangles, but want something challenging.

I wasn’t a big reader of horse or dog stories when I was a kid, but I adored the ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL series by James Harriot when I was in 6th grade. And I mean every time I read them (the first three, at least), they warmed my heart all over again. I kept forgetting how good they were.

32085I haven’t read them in years and wondered if my taste was suspect as a child. So I looked them up on GoodReads and, sure enough, all the books score consistently high marks.

They are heart-pulling, authentic (semi-autobiograhic) stories by an English veterinary surgeon. He worked in a rural area for the bulk of his life, delivering calves and the like. He had always wanted to write his stories, but didn’t do so until encouraged by his wife at the age of 50.

From his GoodReads bio:

The Herriot books are often described as “animal stories” … and given that they are about the life of a country veterinarian, animals certainly play a significant role in most of the stories. Yet animals play a lesser, sometimes even a negligible role in many of Wight’s tales: the overall theme of his stories is Yorkshire country life, with its people and their animals primary elements that provide its distinct character. Further, it is Wight’s shrewd observations of persons, animals, and their close inter-relationship, which give his writing much of its savour.

There are a few squeamish bits (back in the day, farm animal medicine could be pretty messy), but I can’t recall anything shocking me, and I was a fairly sheltered 6th grader. I think even back then I detected Harriot’s ability to observe and comment on the human condition. I remember him being a kind, hardworking¬† man who treated all his patients (and their owners) equally.

I think this would be a great series to read as a family or parent-child book club. As well, the chapters are each separate stories, so no cliff hangers. You can pick the book up and put it down as you need to.

Just writing this post makes me want to read them all over again.

FOR MORE Middle Grade Reviews, visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog


  1. Jennifer D. Munro
    Jan 21, 2013

    I LOVED these books, but I think I was quite a bit older when I read them. High school, maybe? He does put his arm up the cow’s whatsahoodle quite often. (I am only saying whatsahoodle because this is a middle grade site. You know I am perfectly capable of using the real word in appropriate situations.)

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Jan 21, 2013

      “whatsahoodle” hahaha. Now that I think about it, I began reading them in 5th grade. I remember which classroom I was sitting in. There may be cow whatsahoodles, but nothing inappropriate, right? I would have memories of being sneaky or embarrassed if there had been. As I said, I was a pretty innocent 6th grader.

  2. 4amWriter
    Jan 22, 2013

    This could be exactly what I need for my son (he just turned 8) and I’m having a devil of a time interesting him in books. He doesn’t read at a middle-grade level but he enjoys the stories of middle-grade books better. Thanks for reminding me about this series.

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Jan 25, 2013

      Hmmm, I’m not sure about 8 years of for this series – that may be a little young. But try it and let me know.

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